Board of Trustees Meet, Masser Elected Chair

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The Penn State Board of Trustees met earlier this afternoon at the Penn Stater Conference Center as part of its bimonthly meeting. A number of motions were voted on, including the election of the new Board of Trustees chair and vice chair, won by Keith Masser and Stephanie Deviney, respectively.

Chair Karen Peetz called the meeting to order and began her opening remarks by naming a number of notable Penn State alumni who passed away over the past year. Most notable, Peetz named Joe Paterno, referring to him as “an educator and football coach.”

Anthony Lubrano requested to read a statement, which was met by loud applause. “”This is a magic time for Penn State,” Lubrano said. “There has never been a time when we have been more united or proud.”

The statement read by Lubrano was the same one Joe Paterno read to the Board of Trustees on January 22, 1983 following his first national championship. The statement can be read in full here.

So, thank you very much for this wonderful resolution. I’m moved. I think you know how much I love this institution and how much I appreciate what it has meant to me and my family for 33 glorious years. 33 years of a great love affair that I have had with this place in this town. I have no regrets. I’m only anxious to get on with some other things to make it even bigger and better, not in a sense of size, but in the context of quality and influence in this country and in some of the things that I think it’s important for a major institution of this size to do. So, thank you very much. I hope I didn’t bore you with it too long.

President Erickson then began his opening remarks, which can be read in full here. Notably, Erickson says that students who have accepted their admission and paid their deposit is up three percent from this time last year.

“I also want to thank you and the board for putting your confidence in me over the last 14 months. It was recently brought to my attention that, in our original charter of 1855, one of the stipulations for choosing the president was that he ‘shall be a good practical farmer,'” Erickson said. “Well, I’m a farmer alright, but you’ll have to judge whether I’m a good or practical one. Although I’m quite certain the next president will not be a farmer, I can assure you I’ll support your efforts to find the next president in any way possible, while staying appropriately distant from the process.”

Erickson also recognized a plethora of student athletes for their academic achievements, including football players John Urchsel and Glenn Carson. “If you need help with math, see John,” Erickson joked.

Reports from the six committees followed. Most notably, the Committee on Finance, Business, and Capital Planning stayed true to its love of construction projects, and approved several major campus projects including:

  • A renovation of the IM Building, including a 48,000 square foot addition and aesthetic renovations including the addition of natural light and windows. The project is expected to cost $26.1 million to be completed in May 2014.
  • $18.1 million to renovate Fear South Labs.
  • $8.6 million  to replace two wind turbines at the West Steam Plant.
  • $19.5 million to renovate of a building at Penn State Harrisburg.
  • $39 million to renovate and expand buildings at the Navy Yard in Philly.

The student facility fee will be used to fund most of the IM Building renovation, which is paid by students every semester. The current fee is set at $112, and the Facility Fees Board — made up of mostly students — meets regularly to determine how that many is spent.

Trustee James Broadhurst, the chair of the Committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning, said that his committee is currently discussing possible restructuring of the Board of Trustees. Topics for discussion included term limits, committee restructuring, the time period that it takes for Penn State faculty to be eligible to run for the Board of Trustees, and the voting powers and membership of the Penn State President and Pennsylvania governor.

These discussions are a welcoming sign for folks who want to restructure the board in such a way that fosters more alumni representative and to eliminate potential conflicts of interest with the Penn State President and Governor. Broadhurst says such changes could be proposed during the “next two meetings.”

The infamous public comment session was next up on the agenda. Seven people were granted permission to address the board for three minutes each, which is typically just a soapbox for alumni to slam the board for their leadership last November. This meeting, however, had the best speakers and discourse that I have seen in the previous two sessions. Here’s a rundown of the seven commenters:

  • Peggi Munkittrick, who has no affiliation to Penn State, criticized the Board for its actions surrounding the Sandusky Scandal. “Accusations, hysteria, and a rush to judgement seems to rule the day [last November],” Munkittrick said. “I expected you to defend your University…instead Joe Paterno was fired and the football team was slammed with sanctions.”
  • Elizabeth Morgan urged the board to accept the structural changes proposed by Auditor General Jack Wagner.
  • Andrea Cook was also in favor of accepting Jack Wagner’s recommendations, and added “Hiring Bill O’Brien – brilliant move. Props to Joe Paterno for recruiting men of character.”
  • Cecilia Masella wanted to speak about “Joe Paterno’s memory” as the one year anniversary of his death approaches. “His wins totaled a record-number 409. To say otherwise would be a travesty and an untruth,” Masella said. “It is time for this university to proper honor his accomplishments and celebrate his life.” Masella then yielded the remainder of her time for a moment of silence in Paterno’s memory.
  • Susan Dietterich outlined the expenses the university has incurred as a result of the Sandusky scandal. She figured the total cost to be $110 million so far, including legal fees, NCAA fines, and expenses of the Freeh Report. Dietterich called for more transparency on such expenses.
  • Maribeth Schmidt, an active member in the PS4RS reform group, questioned the transparency of how the Business and Industry trustees are selected. She called for a more open process in those elections, and addressed each Business and Industry trustee directly.
  • Anne Weiss echoed similar sentiments about board reform. “Perhaps it is naive of me to think that success with honor is applicable to its leadership,” Weiss said.

A few more new items were voted on before the meeting adjourned. Several people were granted distinguished alumni status, most notably former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge.

The presidential search and screen committee was also named, which includes a wide variety of student leaders and staff. The members include:

  • Daniel Hagen, committee vice chairman, immediate past-chair, University Faculty Senate; professor of dairy and animal sciences, College of Agricultural Sciences
  • Jalon Alexander, president, Penn State Mont Alto Student Government Association; undergraduate student in Letters, Arts, and Sciences
  • Brian Aynardi, Graduate Student Association University Faculty Senate Representative; graduate student, plant pathology and environmental microbiology
  • Larry Backer, chair (2012-13), University Faculty Senate; professor of international affairs and law, Dickinson School of Law
  • Robert Edwards, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English and Comparative Literature, College of the Liberal Arts
  • Shaun Gabbidon, Distinguished Professor of criminal justice, Penn State Harrisburg
  • David Hall, dean, College of Information Sciences and Technology; chair, Academic Leadership Council
  • David Han, associate professor of surgery and radiology, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
  • Madlyn Hanes, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses
  • Thomas Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of materials chemistry and physics, Eberly College of Science
  • Katelyn Mullen, vice president, University Park Undergraduate Association; undergraduate student in marketing and public relations
  • Brian Orland, Distinguished Professor of landscape architecture, College of Arts and Architecture
  • Margaret Slattery, assistant professor of bioengineering; undergraduate program coordinator in bioengineering, College of Engineering
  • Kathleen Smarilli, president, Penn State Alumni Association; partner, Murphy McCormack Capital Advisors
  • Coquese Washington, head coach, Lady Lions Basketball
  • Timothy Whitehill, applications system analyst manager, University Budget Office
  • Brenton Yarnal, chair-elect (2013-14), University Faculty Senate; professor of geography, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

The next item of business, and perhaps the most important for the Board going forward, was the election of the next Chair and Vice Chair. With Karen Peetz not seeking reelection, both positions became open. Former Vice Chair Keith Masser was the only nominee for Chair, and Stephanie Deviney, an alumni elected trustee whose term expires in June, was the only nominee for Vice Chair.

“She pushes the envelope when necessary and does not shy away from but rather encourages healthy debate,” said trustee Ken Frazier when nominating Deviney.

Both Masser and Deviney were elected unanimously, followed by a standing ovation from members of the board.

Karen Peetz gave short parting remarks as she handed over the “chairhood” to Masser. “My dedication to and pride for this institution will never change and never end,” Peetz said. “We are better today than we were yesterday, and we will be better tomorrow than today.”

Masser then addressed the board for the first time as chair, in a humble and calculated manner that accentuated his farming roots. “Keeping a Penn State education affordable and accessible for all students needs to remain our number one priority,” Masser said. “I pledge to do my best to move this process forward for the future of Penn State.”

“Penn State is a different university than the one that accepted me so many years ago, and it will continue to evolve, but one thing is certain and immutable. Penn State transforms lives,” Masser continued. “I will be forever grateful for its role in my life, and I look forward to devoting myself to moving this university forward.
What we do in the coming months will define Penn State for years to come. We must, as a community, come together to strengthen and improve our university. I pledge to you my full and dedicated efforts to making that so.”

And with that, the 27 Chair of Penn State’s Board of Trustees called the meeting adjourned.

Photo By: Dave Cole
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About Author

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014, and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is a director of the Nittany Valley Society 501(c)(3) and is involved in student government.

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